Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia (Prop Noun): a former republic in central Europe formed after World War I

It was usually right before lunch in our fifth-grade class that the teacher asked us to open up our geography books.

I grew up in a small town.

In our tiny burg, the state capital, which was only twenty miles away, seemed a world apart from us in culture, problems and of course, interaction.

So when my teacher talked about places like Mississippi, Switzerland, Utah and Czechoslovakia, the names began to mingle. The relevance gradually disappeared.

I didn’t know anything about the countries.

Sometimes I confused the states of the Union with places far, far away—in Europe and Asia.

(It was a different time, filled with much prejudice—so we rarely talked about Africa. I knew there were jungles there. There were whisperings about cannibals, and my understanding of the lion was that it was man-eating.)

I didn’t feel ignorant.

I just didn’t think all of these nations and names and locales were of any value to me.

I didn’t see anybody from England coming over to try to understand me—so why was I sitting, opening a book, looking at flat maps representing a round world?

Then I grew up and took my first trip to Mississippi. Although some of its landscape was different from my home, most trees carry a family resemblance, no matter where you go. What opened up Mississippi to me was meeting someone and putting a face to a place.

As I traveled more, learned more, wrote more and created, I met more faces. They were tied to places.

One day I received an email from a young man from Czechoslovakia. He had read one of my books. I was astounded. How did it get there? Apparently, my books were not nearly as timid as I. They felt free to journey and be handled; they welcomed the inspection by people from all cultures.

By the way, his note to me was so nice.

He was so intelligent.

He was so appreciative.

It made me like Czechoslovakia.

It could be a short-sighted way of looking at life, but if I can put a face to a place, then the place begins to mean so much more to me.

For instance, I no longer think that Africa is filled with cannibals or that the lions wish to munch on human flesh.

I don’t think all people from California are “fruits and nuts,” like my Uncle Raymond claimed.

And I no longer believe that all French folk wear berets and do nothing but eat croissants and kiss with their tongues.

I guess the best way to learn geography is to first travel the width and breadth of your own heart, and make sure that you’re prepared to receive what you will discover.

The world is only twenty-six thousand miles—all the way around. Not very much. And within that twenty-six thousand miles are nearly eight billion people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us all to believe that we would really like most of them?

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Creole

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Creole: (n) a person born in Louisiana but of usually French ancestry.

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of leaps into quicksand, with the excitement coming from each escape from foolishness.

Would any of us truly have a reason for being if we weren’t finding creative ways to correct our mistakes?

For a very brief time in my life, I thought that because I possessed faith, it was my responsibility to infuse it into others. This misconception led me to make a brief missionary trip to the country of Haiti. Never has one small nation been so inundated with religious propaganda and promises of eternal life with so little prospect for earthly sustenance. Yet I decided to add my own drivel to the propagated myth. I arrived in Haiti convinced that if I preached the Gospel, I could save souls. It didn’t occur to me that there were actually people linked to those souls.

People who got hungry.

People who needed love.

People who valued romance.

People who just thought, felt and dreamed about “people things.”

I was in the middle of my third little sermon in an adobe building, in front of a packed house—eager faces who had obviously been told by their leadership that the arrival of white people from America always offered the possibility of financial relief.

The language was Creole.

I did not take the time to learn the tongue, but over the several days that I had been there, I picked up a word here and there—maybe even a phrase.

I suddenly noticed that my translator, who had a grin foretelling of sin, was not exactly sharing what I was saying to the congregation.

So after I finished my teaching, I cornered him and asked him what he was doing. Never dropping his smile, he looked me right in the eyes and said, “You come from a country where your biggest concern is getting too fat. You are visiting a country where our biggest concern is staying alive. Sometimes you say dumb things that would be offensive, and I just find happier ways to translate them.”

A chill went down my spine. Even though I believed myself to be a plain-spoken individual who always wanted to hear the truth, I kind of wished he’d lied to me.

But I’m glad he didn’t—because he made it clear that my preaching could not be eaten and my Bible verses didn’t provide warmth; that even though I might have good intentions, my efforts were worthless to the needy.

That day I started trying to learn some of the Creole language.

It was literally the least I could do.

 


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Ciao

Ciao: (exclam) used as a greeting at meeting or parting.

I really don’t want to say anything. I’m sure it’s not my right to intervene, but something must be done.

An insanity is penetrating every facet of our daily life and putrefying our communication. It must be highlighted and deleted from the
motherboard of our efforts.

There are several examples:

If you’re around someone from Israel or the Middle East, please don’t say “shalom.” It is not only predictable, it is insidious because it lets everyone know that this is the extent of your knowledge of Hebrew or Aramaic, yet you still flaunt it as if you’re bilingual.

Also, don’t say “Buenos Dias” to someone who is Hispanic. People who actually speak the language say that phrase much differently, so when you insert it, to them it sounds like you think they are deaf and you’re trying to speak slowly.

“G-o-o-o-d m-o-o-r-n-i-n-g…”

Also knowing that “oiu” is the French word for “yes,” and “nein” is the German word for “no” does not mean you can “parlez -vous francais” or “sprechen sie deutsche.”

I conclude this little rant by bringing out in cuffs the chief suspect of them all. You are not Paris Hilton. You are not Italian.

So please, for the love of God, stop saying “ciao.”

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Armada

dictionary with letter A

Armada: (n) a fleet of warships.

Certainly when I see the word “armada,” my mind immediately pops off to think of the Spanish one.

The Spanish Armada was dubbed the greatest naval force that ever existed on Planet Earth. Because of that it was deemed invincible.

Matter of fact, the English, the French and even the pirates would avoid interfacing with this formidable fleet out of fear of being decimated by the sheer, brute force of its power.

But the Spanish Armada learned a valuable lesson, which is transferable into our times. Once you develop a reputation, you have two choices:

1. You can continue to work on getting better, using only your own standards as the criteria for excellence rather than comparing yourself to the surrounding, meager competition; or

2. You can continue to promote and advertise your status as supreme, hoping there will be no challenges to your claims,continuing to be all-powerful via publicity.

Can you guess which one is popular in the human race?

So while the Spanish Armada promoted itself, striking fear in the hearts of lesser navigators, the English, under the command of Sir Francis Drake, decided to improve its own boats–and eventually defeated them.

It’s not just that pride goes before a fall–it’s more that pride is the stumbling block that trips us up in our inadequacy, producing the tumble.

 

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Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix